ANALYSIS The Media-assisted Psychological War Between Israel and the 'Radical Axis'

Israel is very troubled by the increasingly close operational ties between Syria and Hezbollah and by the flow of advanced weapons into Lebanon.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Israel is currently waging a war of nerves with the members of the radical axis of the Middle East: Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. Against that backdrop, reports have been stepping up of improved rocket-firing capability of the members of that axis and the possibility of an Israeli response.

Young Hezbollah supporters holding mock ups of Katyusha rockets in front of a portrait of group leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.Credit: AP

The danger that a regional war will break out shortly has decreased somewhat, according to intelligence officials, but that also means the cold (er ) war is being waged elsewhere.

There's an arms race and competition over operational plans, intelligence gathering and deterrence - and of course, there's media-assisted psychological warfare.

You've got to be naive to believe there's no connection between Friday's (London ) Times report about Hezbollah's secret arms depots in Syria and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's warning to European officials about the same exact topic just a few days earlier.

Sunday's Haaretz report about satellite photographs of Syrian military installations, which are available online via Google Earth, is also related.

Israel is very troubled by the increasingly close operational ties between Syria and Hezbollah and by the flow of advanced weapons into Lebanon.

Since Syria continues to deny all accusations of involvement in the matter, one way to prove it is to work through the media.

Invisible hands make sure to bring up-to-date satellite photos to reporters with a reliable record in the West.

The officials take care of the follow-up - both Israelis, like Netanyahu last week, and those from other countries.

Witness the worried statements about Hezbollah's arms made by senior American officials and others over the past two months.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which has helped bring a quiet to Israel's northern border since August 2006, failed miserably regarding anything connected to the weapons being smuggled from Iran and Syria to Lebanon.

The factual discrepancies, conflicting reports and mutual threats are expected to continue throughout the summer, even if no conflagration breaks out.

In the meantime, Syria and Hezbollah are benefiting from the shift in world attention to issues like the aid flotilla to Gaza, even if they have no direct link to it.

In addition, there has been a steady drip to the media of information concerning Iran and the progress of its nuclear program.

In this case, the Western press has been functioning for years as a conduit to put intelligence information in the hands of intelligence agencies in countries fighting the prospect of a nuclear Iran.

On Sunday, Britain's Sunday Times reported that Israel would be deploying three submarines equipped with nuclear capable cruise missiles in the Persian Gulf, near the Iranian coastline. Over the past year, Israeli submarine movement has been recorded in the Suez Canal, but from there to a permanent presence in the Persian Gulf is a long way to go - and not just geographically speaking.

Nonetheless, if the combination of Israel, Iran and the nuclear bomb continues to sell papers abroad, one can hope that it also helps a little bit when it comes to Israel's deterrent capability.



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